Stopping Brexit and beyond – the Lib Dem European election manifesto is out!


The very first line of the Liberal Democrats’ European election manifesto says exactly what we want to do:

Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit and stay in the European Union.

For the first time in a long time, we are off the leash. We are fighting an election saying exactly what we want and not dressing it up in nuance and equivocation.

We’ll look at each section of the manifesto in more detail over the next few days. It looks at what our MEPs will do if we succeed in stopping Brexit. Which is a good idea, because if we do manage to stop this nonsense, we’ll need to get a lot better at communicating what they are doing and how that benefits all of us.

The introductory section packs a punch, setting out our internationalist values:

The Liberal Democrats’ vision for Britain is a country that has remained at the heartof a dynamic European Union. A country where everyone can afford somewhere tolive, in a safe, clean and friendly neighbourhood. A country where high-quality health and social care, good-quality childcare, lifelong education, reliable transport and clean air are all part of a contract between government and citizens. A country with a new politics – taking on entrenched power and privilege and delivering a fair deal for everyone.

I like the use of the word friendly, there. It’s a very warm, active word. It conjures up images of people talking to each other, helping each other out, of kindness. It’s a powerful concept and so much better than the horrible politics of “it’s their fault you haven’t got.”

Turning to the Government and official opposition, the manifesto does not mince its words:

Theresa May doesn’t care about Remainers – and doesn’t care about those who voted leave either. For almost three years she has been obsessed with trying to buyoff the right wing of the Conservative party…

…The deal she has put on the table shows just how damaging and costly Brexit will be, in contrast to the lies peddled by the Leave campaign. It is also clear that many of the reasons driving people to vote leave – worries about funding of the health service, anger at rising inequalities across the country, the feeling of being left behind – will not be solved by Brexit; indeed, they will all be worsened.

The Conservatives have spent half a decade trying to please UKIP and Nigel Farage. Jeremy Corbyn has his own Brexit vision: instead of opposing it, he wants to deliver it. The fact is that whether Labour Red or Tory Blue, Brexit is bad for the UK.

The manifesto goes on to set out what would happen if we did manage to stop Brexit. It includes calls for Europe to adopt a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050, for an emergency £7.5 billion Support Fund for those affected by Brexit uncertainty and the extensions of rights for EU citizens in the UK including the ability to stand and vote in elections.

Ahead of the launch tonight, Vince said:

Brexit is a failed project, which must now be stopped so our country and the whole of Europe can get on with dealing with the big challenges we face.

The Conservatives have let their internal feud divide the country while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has sat out the biggest issue facing our country in decades.

Liberal Democrats are unambiguous and honest: we want to stop Brexit.

Only as members of the EU can we take the big steps we need on climate change, protect consumers and build a strong economy.

Our manifesto sets out a clear and positive vision for the UK within the EU, and we can achieve it by stopping Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats, with over 100,000 members and 2,500 councillors across the country, are the strongest Remain voice going into the European Elections.

Every Liberal Democrat vote is a vote to stop Brexit.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I like it. A very simple message that will capture the imagination one way or the other.

  • I will vote Liberal Democrat for a referendum. Only that can stop brexit.

    (Not sure how I’d vote in said referendum; depends on what’s on the ballot paper)

  • David Becket 9th May '19 - 12:22pm

    Not happy supporting a party that puts bollocks on the front page of its manifesto. Opponents will call the Lib Dems “The Bollocks Party” of “The Party that says Bollocks to Leavers”. This manifesto needs to be ditched before it does damage.

  • Labour’s Brexit plan will cost public services £13 billion, that’s a lot of operations, teachers and police, Mr Corbyn. For Brexit, not Remain.

    For independent advice on which is the leading Remain candidate to vote for in your MEP seat from the website set up by Gina Miller (and backed by research from pollster Comres)

    (Hint: In all 8 English seats it’s Liberal Democrat)

  • John Marriott 9th May '19 - 1:25pm

    Is it me, or does anyone else find the use of the word ‘b……s’ inappropriate and indeed unnecessary? Surely the descent to the vernacular is no way to present a cogent argument for Remain, or anything else for that matter?

    I’ve just watched today’s ‘Politics Live’. What a shambles: the ‘he said/ you said’ argument between Change UK’s Gavin Esler and the guy from the Brexit Party, the non appearance of anyone from Labour following the launch of its EU Election Manifesto, the inability of the Tory MP to tell us whether or not her party intended even to publish one. You really couldn’t make it up, could you?

    What HAS happened to our politics? It’s not just the Houses of Parliament that are falling apart.

  • Richard O'Neill 9th May '19 - 1:38pm

    Have to admit, far from happy about this stance. It feels like the competition with Change UK has pushed the party into a more militant and simplistic position. A sort of mirror of UKIP. Chasing after a militant core vote, rather than building a broad-based coalition that national parties should aspire to.

    Like Caron I agree that the word friendly is appealing. I dream of living in a more friendly world. But it is not friendly to plaster the countryside with posters screaming “Bollocks to Brexit”.

    1) it is crude, and opens the floodgates to low blows. It is only a small step from that to having pictures of opposing policians with the world bollocks under them. Would we really feel comfortable with that. Given the targeting of certain MPs in recent months , it opens the door to more intolerant political culture.

    2) this election is more complex. The MEPs elected do not have the authority to stop Brexit. Nor does a second referendum garuntee remaining. It is dishonest to promise people that voting Lib Dem will explicitly stop Brexit. A People’s Vote will only come if enough of a consensus emerges to make it happen, involving Tory and Labour MPs. And will require yet another extension from Brussels.

    Disappointing after the local election results where it felt like the party recovered by being a broad-based community-focused party. Something Change UK is clearly lacking.

  • David Becket 9th May '19 - 1:40pm

    The B…….s word is totally inappropriate. We will be known as the ” b…….s. party” or “the party that said “b……..s to leavers”. We are part of your falling apart John. Can those copies be put in the bin?

  • Peter Watson 9th May '19 - 2:16pm

    “Liberal Democrats are unambiguous and honest: we want to stop Brexit.”
    That is certainly progress from the first year or two after the 2016 Referendum.
    In the 2017 General Election campaign it made me cringe to watch Tim Farron’s car-crash interview with Andrew Neill when Farron would not confirm that Lib Dems would campaign to remain in the EU in a second referendum:

  • Thoroughly disagree. The message is simple and precise. People will understand it, after all at the march of a million it was being chanted loud and clear through central London and nobody complained. We have to be clear and unambiguous, this message is just that.
    This and the S… word are in everyday usuage, at work in the home and generally acceptable these days.

  • Thorughly disagree. It is a good simple & sound message which 95% of the population will understand Plain speaking that is what we want. I do not know where others, work, live etc but in my real world “bullocks” is in everyday, common use

  • Richard Underhill 9th May '19 - 2:59pm

    Mr. Corbyn is making a fetish of sitting on the fence, as typified by a recent cartoon.
    Is the iron entering his soul? Does he think he is Harold Wilson in 1975?
    Mr. Corbyn has made it clear that Labour has red lines in the negotiations with The PM.
    (while she, of course, does not, they are pre-conditions).
    The Tory leaflet today provides an alternative: go to
    “ and select ‘Stop Mailings’.
    The Farage Leaflet does not. (and, who elected him as a party leader? Nobody?).

  • For those who don’t like the use of the word “B*****ks” (are we really not allowed to use that word on LDV?) – it’s getting us noticed.

    For instance – check out the faux-outrage in the ever supportive Express –

    Better still, the quote in that Express article – “Remainer leader Vince Cable was today launching his anti-Brexit campaign as he attempts to go head to head with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party as a leading Remain party in the May 23 elections”.

    The Express is telling it’s readers that the Euro elections are a head-to-head between the Lib Dems and the Brexit party! Personally, I love it……..

  • Well I like the title, and the contents of the manifesto look good too. I also loved Vince’s interview in the Guardian today. To me, Brexit IS bollocks, and I’m pleased we are finally saying so in language that people will notice.
    I think the first line of Caron’s article hits the nail on the head: “For the first time in a long time, we’re off the leash.” I think that’s exactly right, sums up the mood in the party right now. Let’s go for it.

  • It is a plain simple message in the language most people use each day. Well done Lib Dems.

  • Richard Underhill 9th May '19 - 3:57pm

    Page one of the Brexit party leaflet shows Nigel Farage (currently an MEP) without saying in which region he intends to stand, then three other “new” candidates. Four other candidates are on the back, including Ms. Annunziata Rees-Mogg,
    but again, in which regions are they standing? and how are their lists organised? By decision of their Leader?

  • Richard Underhill 9th May '19 - 4:16pm

    There was a rumour that the Remain parties were trying to run a single candidate in the bye-election in Peterborough, England.
    Labour is obviously not a Remain party under current leadership and it was their MP who was excluded by the recall. SNP and Plaid exclude themselves. Change UK did not exist in 2017. That leaves Lib Dems and Greens. The I website states
    “Liberal Democrat: Beki Sellick
    She also stood for the seat in 2017, and is pledging to campaign for a People’s Vote with an option to remain in the EU.”

  • Good grief. What an extraordinarily feeble lot of initial responses with some exceptions. This manifesto clearly sets out our key position in this election in a way that people can understand and sets out a set of positive liberal policies to repair our country by addressing problems that were at least partly responsible for the leave vote. The clarity of the message is far better than the triangulation in the 2015 campaign when more spending to reinforce a weak message reduced our vote. Time we stood up and said what we believe in loud and clear. The manifesto should be emailed to every member. If the slogan is a bit strong for some, get over it. We have to beat not only Labour and Tory but take the fight to the creeping fascist poison of Farage and Mogg. Our 19% vote in the locals was based on candidates in just 53% of the seats. Will many independents vote for us in the Euros? We need to think big with positive messages and grab headlines.

  • John Chandler 9th May '19 - 4:45pm

    While I can certainly understand people’s objections to the word “bollocks”*, especially in a political manifesto, I’m actually okay for it to be used for this specific situation. As long as we don’t make a habit of it. It’s getting us noticed, and it’s already been in widespread use since the referendum with no obvious outcry of public offence. I’d like to think we just drove a tank through a certain red bus, and parked it on Farage’s lawn.

    * although a court case in the 1970s involving the Sex Pistols arguably cleared it for public use

  • The wonderful thing about democracy is that people who might use the B word on a regular basis have a vote as well and it is worth just as much as the vote of my maiden aunt in Frinton, who still feels very strongly about ice cream vans on the front.
    I would go further, perhaps an increasing number of people have concluded that only profane language can truly convey the horror of the situation we now find ourselves in.
    Even Guy Verhofstadt’s people have been moved to strong language, if last nights TV is to be believed.

  • William Fowler 9th May '19 - 5:10pm

    Aging punks will have a flashback to the Sex Pistols and lining up the LibDems against the establishment is an interesting move, will Sir Vince be petitioning for the Sex Pistol’s version of God Save the Queen to replace our relatively boring national anthem?

  • Peter Watson 9th May '19 - 5:28pm

    Richard Underhill “There was a rumour that the Remain parties were trying to run a single candidate in the bye-election in Peterborough”
    Looks like more than a rumour as far as Lib Dems and Change UK are concerned:

    Cable confirmed that the Lib Dems are now in talks with Change UK about fielding a joint candidate at the Peterborough byelection, which is taking place on 6 June. “There are conversations and I’m encouraging that.”
    Rather than one of the parties selecting a candidate and the other stepping aside, he said the pact was likely to involve an independent, standing with the backing of the respective parties.

  • It all just screams hyperbole and immaturity. I received the Lib Dem leaflet today and it was entirely lacking in reasoned policies and mainly listed all the ‘baddies’ I should be voting against and made a series of incorrect claims that immigration is being ended and tried to tie the whole thing to the Windrush scandal. The spirit of ‘Project Fear’ and negative campaigning lives on.

    Rumours swirl that the Lib Dems are going to pull their candidate from the Peterborough by-election. The cynic in me asks whether it’s because the party fears it won’t do very well in exactly the type of place where people would need to be changing their minds on Brexit if there were to be a second referendum. A very cowardly move if so.

  • @Richard Underhill

    Farage is standing in South East England (his current list)
    A. Rees Mogg in East Midlands

    The other candidates seem – at least from my very brief observations on Twitter – to vary depending on which region the leaflet is being delievered to.

    As for process, I would be surprised if it went much beyond Farage and the party Chairman pulling the list together themselves. Most likely with the assistance of third party vetting companies. Compared to Change UK they actually have a fairly decent candidate list and their Peterborough by-election candidate doesn’t follow the traditional UKIP model of being an eccentric and extreme parachute candidate – it’s a previously unseen level of competence from the Eurosceptic right. It does make one wonder what else is coming…

  • Yeovil Yokel 9th May '19 - 6:39pm

    In my line of work we prefer to say “Billhooks to Brexit”.

  • Using the word Bollocks is the best move we’ve made since Nick Clegg stood down as leader. We struggle for media attention and now we have it. Change UK is being ridiculed for its lack of voice and its weak party machine. Within 3 weeks they may well be finished.

    People are for the first time in years writing positive articles about the Lib Dem’s and readers making all the right noises. This could be a huge turning point for us.

    If this goes well we should reach out to Change UK and encourage their politicians to jump ship. Ironically if the Brexit party does well and we do well it could well lead to then realignment of British politics.

  • I don’t like this sort of language personally (it’s most unGrimond-like) but it’s certainly generated more attention to our manifesto than might otherwise have been the case. There was a good news item and photograph in today’s Evening Standard and a most supportive editorial. It’s the third editorial comment in the link:

    So, despite my personal view, I say “Well played HQ”.

  • John Marriott 9th May '19 - 7:02pm

    I just hope that the media doesn’t go to town over the ‘b’ word. If it does I fear that the Remain cause and the Lib Dems in particular could be the losers.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 9th May '19 - 7:11pm

    I have been going around with a Bollocks to Brexit sticker on my phone for months. People on my commute are almost entirely positive and ask where they can get the stickers.

    So, I don’t mind it. The Bollocks to Brexit cover is a limited edition which appeals to nerds like me who have paid good money for it. And if it gets us noticed, I’m happy with that.

  • @David Raw

    Lol 🙂 ! The point is that we are on 12% in the polls for the Euros (up 5%). On the cusp of a seat in every English region and 2 in the SE (which is what we got on 14% in 2009) and may be 2 in London.

    Really folks one extra vote in each ward in a region could mean the difference between an MEP and not. And one tactical vote.

    It’s up to us, folks!

    CHUK are on 2%! And to think that some here wanted us to give up half our seats to that illiberal shower! We need independent validation that we are the ones to vote for. I doubt whether many Lib Dems will switch from the Nats but they might do.

    I was a bit dubious about the phrase when I heard it on Sky News – it is no doubt a generational thing. What was offensive was the 2015 Lib Dem PPB which was a total waste of members’ money – you could say…

    Looking on twitter many have been saying that they voted Lib Dem by post today because of the phrase or joined the party.

    Really we need to talk the language of the people not political theory such as “Endogenous growth theory”. Come to think of it a certain politician did describe that as Balls – with a capital B – allegedly!

  • Play nice get ignored, shout and make a noise( including profane noises) and you don’t. It isn’t fair I hear some say, true but as I tell my children, life isn’t fair, make sure you take any advantages that come your way and don’t think being shy and nice gets you anywhere.

  • Barry Lofty 9th May '19 - 9:25pm

    To be honest I have been referring to Brexit with similar words for some time I only hope it encourages more people to vote for the Lib Dems

  • @ Nicholas Collins. It doesn’t offend me in the least, Nicholas – just pointing out the irony of Michael 1’s enthusiasm and the mental gymnastics required to be a Lib Dem in Scotland.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th May '19 - 1:11pm

    This is quoted as in the manifesto:

    It is also clear that many of the reasons driving people to vote leave – worries about funding of the health service, anger at rising inequalities across the country, the feeling of being left behind – will not be solved by Brexit; indeed, they will all be worsened.

    and I think we need to emphasise it.

    What we DON’T want to do (and to some extent we have come across like this) is to give the impression that we’re just insulting those who voted Leave and don’t care about them. Instead, we should try to get them to switch their support to us by pointing out now we’ve had experience of trying to get Brexit and being unable to do so.

    Let’s make it clear that the reason for this is the untruths about it told by the campaigners for Leave in the referendum. It’s not a simple and easy thing to do as they claimed, and in fact different forms of Brexit are contradictory to each other. Some were encouraged to vote Leave by being told about countries like Norway and Switzerland and that it would be easy to get a similar agreement for us. Those who thought like that would rather stay in the EU than have Hard Brexit. But those who want Hard Brexit would rather stay in the EU than have Soft Brexit, on the grounds that Soft Brexit is just like being in the EU but losing a say in what it does. So let’s say, yes, both are true on this, and that means there is no majority for Brexit because whatever form it takes, there’s a majority opposition to it.

    I don’t think we should be critical of Theresa May. Rather, we should say she tried her best to work out a compromise between Soft and Hard Brexit, and what she ended up with probably is the most reasonable form that it could take. The fact that both Soft and Hard Brexiteers opposed her compromise just makes it more clear, that Brexit hasn’t happened because there is no single form of it that a majority would accept.

    So don’t blame us, who knew from the start it wouldn’t work, for the fact it hasn’t happened. Rather support us now because we want to get the best out of the EU, and plenty of LibDem MEPs will do that. Why elect Brexit MEPs when they are not going to do anything useful? If the EU is not perfect, what we need is active MEPs to work with it to make it better, not Brexit MEPs who will just be be paid to do nothing.

  • Sue Sutherland 10th May '19 - 2:27pm

    I love it. We say we want to stay in the EU and then we say how we’ll make life better for people in one short paragraph. As for ‘bollocks’, well we are the party for well educated professionals and an important part of my university education was learning how to swear. ‘Bollocks’ was pretty far down the list in terms of offensiveness. For those of you who don’t like it just think about the alliteration.

  • Matthew
    Why is that so many Remainers simply can’t see that the Leave vote was driven by a more nationalistic bent and that the economic issues are secondary. That a lot of people object to the idea of the EU on principle, just as a lot of people accept it on principle . What a lot of Remainers fail to take into account is that not everyone thinks that nationalism is innately bad or that pan-Europeanism is innately good or that Britain will descend into barbarism without the input of some 26-year-old institution with a Lisbon treaty barely 10 years old. In other words that there is a fundamental ideological difference involved. After all if it was just about economics a customs-union agreement would suite most of remain arguments fine, but of course it’s actually about idealism. beliefs and so on. This why there is so much historic determinism involved in the idea that the EU is the future, but says who?

  • Sue Sutherland 10th May '19 - 2:44pm

    I like the use of the word ‘friendly’ too. I’d like to see us using the phrase ‘the EU family of nations working for our peace and prosperity’ while we say why we want to stay. I think it would help fight the ‘EU bureaucrats’ image.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th May '19 - 3:16pm


    Why is it that Leavers suppose that anyone who thinks on balance that it’s better to remain in the EU thinks that “nationalism is innately bad” or that “pan-Europeanism is innately good”? I’m trying to talk common sense, and I’m fed up with getting nonsense accusations like this back from the likes of you.

    Actually what I find is that if you really talk common sense, fanatics on both sides accuse you of having the idealistic nonsense of the other side …

  • Matthew
    I’m just disputing the bit you quoted from the manifesto.
    I think that idea that because different views on Brexit are incompatible with each other then we should is remain is to fundamentally to misunderstand the nature of the argument. Also I have not accused you of anything, where as you use language like “the likes of you” ( a personal attack and rude). I also said “so many Remainers” (a qualified statement) where as you use “leavers”(unqualified).
    I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe that on balance it is better to stay in the EU. Though obviously I disagree with it. Do you believe that being on balance in favour of leaving the EU is reasonable? Both sides hold a spectrum of economic and social views. whilst sharing a broader ideological central core. it being that Remainers tend to agree with the ideal of the Pan-European project on principle and the Leave camp tends disagree on principle. The split is. IMO an ideological one between advocates of pan-nationalist arguments and nationalistic ones with a core value that holds irrespective a spectrum of political differences within either camps.

  • Mathew
    The response is deafening!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 11th May '19 - 6:49am

    Glenn and Matthew, a desire to Leave the EU is not necessarily about “nationalism”. It could perhaps be better described as a belief that nations should have the right to self determination, which after all is quite a liberal and progressive view.
    A desire for self determination is not invalidated by the fact that there are bound to be disagreements over what direction a nation should take after it has gained self determination.
    Supporters of an independent Scotland, for example, will have many different visions about what sort of nation an independent Scotland would be. That does not mean that Scottish independence is necessarily impossible or undesirable.

  • Catherine
    I do not see anything innately wrong with nationalism or anything innately good in internationalism The dismantling of the European empires was driven by nationalism as was the collapse of the USSR. Democracy and universal suffrage as we know them are the products of nation states as are things like welfare. The desire for Scottish independence is plainly driven by nationalism and its main driving force is the Scottish National Party. People get twitchy about the idea, but nationalistic sentiment is no more innately tied to negatives than internationalism is tied to positives . I would argue that it is more commonly the refusal to recognise the less powerful nations borders and the rights of those nations to self determine that causes the problems.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th May '19 - 10:44am

    “I do not see anything innately wrong with nationalism or anything innately good in internationalism”

    So what do you think about the concept of ‘My country right or wrong?

  • I do not believe in the concept of “my country right or wrong” . I believe in the right to dissent. I also believe in the right to self determination and democracy that have developed largely as a result of national borders.

  • Peter Martin 11th May '19 - 11:15am

    “The introductory section packs a punch, setting out our internationalist values” ???

    Shouldn’t that be Pan-Europeanism? Isn’t it just another form of Nationalism?

    Otherwise, we could also argue that the United Kingdom was also “internationalist”. England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland (or at least the North of it) , and even Cornwall all consider themselves separate nations.

  • Arnold Kiel 11th May '19 - 1:56pm

    Bollocks to Brexit is a good slogan, because it not only conveys effectively that Brexit is wrong and should be stopped, but also characterises it rightly as a ridiculous proposition that warrants no serious consideration. At this stage in the battle, it is no longer about converting leave-voters by respectfully arguing with them: any potential success of that approach is already in the bank. It is now about mobilisation, being heard, and avoiding remain-vote dilution. Well done LibDems!

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